This past weekend I went home to Minocqua to visit my dad. You might be asking yourself, when was the last time Lori talked about going to visit her dad. Well, it's largely because I don't go home often enough. There are a few reasons that I don't visit more often, the lamest being that it's a pretty long drive and expensive to do on a regular basis. Obviously, I find ways to scrounge money to get to Chicago and thankfully my mom is more than willing to come to the cities to visit me but my dad, bless his soul, I love the man but every year he becomes more of a hermit and sadly I'm more and more convinced that it's because of his addictions.
The truth is I hate going home and it's not because I don't love my dad or that I don't get along with him or enjoy talking with him (we talk every week at least once a week on the phone) but it's just so hard to watch him drink and smoke himself to what will most certainly be his death.
Now, don't get me wrong, smoking is an addiction that gets in the way of him enjoying life and a large factor in why I find it so hard to go visit him (I'm very allergic to cigarette smoke). He will no longer go out places for more than 30 minutes or so because you can't smoke indoors in public in Wisconsin anymore. He won't go mini golfing, to the movies, he even prefers to pick up food to eat at home rather than eat out. Don't get me wrong, the man socializes a lot, he hangs out with neighbors almost every night and often goes fishing and stuff with coworkers but for the most part when we visit our time together is mostly spent sitting in his house, watching TV or up at the casino (because you can smoke there). This need to be able to smoke affects our visits at my house as well. He spends probably as much time outside smoking as he actually does with us. And we won't even go anywhere anymore because you can't smoke anywhere...he literally had his cig in his mouth with his lighter at the ready as we left the zoo the last time we went, he couldn't even wait until the smoking allowed beyond this point sign, he was already lit up. It's just sad in my opinion and I don't think this is universal to all smokers.
But smoking isn't even the main reason I find it so hard to go home and visit my dad. My dad, since before I was born has been an alcoholic. Strangely enough, he is what I would consider a highly functioning alcoholic (in that it doesn't affect his ability to work, be financially stable, etc.) but the insistence that he is not an alcoholic has caused him to get divorced, a complete degradation of our relationship from the time I was 9 until about 16. He went to AA, mostly to appease my mom before the divorce but admitted later that he just went to try to get my mom to stay and that he never really thought he had a problem. He even tried to argue that because he gave up drinking beer, that meant he wasn't an alcoholic by her definition anymore (he has since switched to wine).
Sadly, not even being on the verge of having a heart attack/stroke could wake him up to what he is doing to his body or getting a DUI awhile back (he no longer drives after he's had a drink at least). Like I said, he doesn't drink until he's home and done with work/driving for the day, but at that point if he doesn't have a drink by about 5 (on days off and when he visits me) he gets antsy, cranky, and can talk about nothing but getting home (of course not for wine according to him but we all know that's why).
As if watching him be a slave to his almighty bottle of wine isn't hard enough to watch, then there are the nights when he drinks waaaay too much and it's so hard to even talk to him. He becomes a totally different person. It takes me back to when I was little and after he'd been drinking for a few hours would make really shitty comments to me...like calling me stupid or an idiot...not ok to say to a grade schooler, granted he doesn't say horrible things to me anymore but it's so hard to watch him become this loud, belligerent, asshole version of himself. It makes me sick. The worst part is no matter how many times I talk to him when he is sober he just doesn't understand how much it upsets me (or puts his addiction before spending time with me). I've even in the past been able to come to terms with the fact that he is probably never going to change, he is going to be an alcoholic for the rest of his life and there is nothing I can do or say to change that, all I used to ask of him is that he not drink when I'm visiting, especially if it's only for a day or two. He used to be able to do that but the last few years, he doesn't even try to be discrete about it.
I just love my dad so much and it makes me so sad that he is just coasting through life, basing his decisions and actions around two things that do horrible things to your body. I want him to be around for a long time, I want to have the dad that I love and get along with here with me and a bigger part of my life but I can't fight his addiction for him. And really, other than cut him out of my life totally, there is nothing that will inspire him to change. If my mom leaving, my not coming home to visit, the idea that when we have kids someday that I wouldn't let him smoke or drink around them-none of that matters.
I wish there was something I could do, it's really that helplessness that kills me. I want to spend time with my dad and I want him around, I just want him to take care of himself.
Needless to say, this weekend was tough. It was also so strange. Our visit started great but about 3 hours in he started drinking, and by about 9 pm I was just miserable. I couldn't say much of anything without him going off on some slurred rant or arguing with stupid stuff. I just stopped talking.
Then this morning, he was back to my sweet wonderful dad whom I know loves me very much and is deep down a kind and awesome person. I've tried so long to use the old out of sight out of mind approach but it's getting to the point where even a day and a half is emotionally overwhelming and basically miserable.
I partially decided to share this today because I needed to get it off my chest but I also hope that someone might have some advice of how to handle this, what to do, or anything I could try that might be a better or different approach.
I also should probably clearly state that I understand addiction is a disease, it's something very very difficult to overcome and it runs deep. I have spent so much of my entire life trying to think of ways to help my dad, to help him break free of these addictions, I often wasn't even able to put into words how it made me feel. So it's not just that I only think about how his addiction makes me feel or how it affects my relationship with him but it's just what I needed to talk about today. I know this is his battle but as anyone that has dealt with addiction second hand knows, the reaches of addiction are much farther than the person suffering from it.
Thank you for letting me share, for reading, and for keeping comments positive and kind.